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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 versus TZ7 (ZS3 in the U.S.)

I’m going to interrupt the normal daily post about Japan for one about cameras. Until February of 2009 nearly all of the pics on this blog were taken with my old Canon S3. A few had been captured with a crappy, little Kodak camera that was my daughter’s that I used in a pinch or when I didn’t want to carry the large S3 around. I loved that S3 camera, but its time had come. I sold it soon thereafter and have been using only the LX3 since (although many older pictures that I have posted on the blog since February were taken with the S3).

The LX3 takes great pictures, and I love the wide angle lens (24 mm), but a few things about it bug me. The cap is a hassle to take on and off manually for every time a picture is taken. Although not nearly as big and heavy as the S3 was, it still isn’t a camera I like to have in my pocket the entire day. But most of all, the 2.5x maximum zoom came to be a problem in a number of situations. 60 mm is simply not enough to photograph sports or to get some good people shots without the subject knowing you are photographing them.

Now let me introduce you to my latest purchase, the TZ7 (sold as the DMC-ZS3 in parts of the world including the USA). The TZ7 doesn’t take as high of quality of pictures in low light or indoors, the wide angle isn’t quite as wide (25mm instead of 24mm), and you can’t control your shots (setting exposure length, etc.) quite as much. But there are many reasons to possibly opt for the TZ7/ZS3 over the LX3. It weighs 229 grams instead of the LX3’s 265 grams. 36 grams may not sound like much, but the 16% lighter factor can be felt immediately. After a day of it in your pocket you’ll notice the difference even more.

panasonic dmc-lx3
panasonic dmc-tz7 dmc-zs3

The published dimensions for these two cameras are incorrect. One of the main reasons I purchased the LX3 was because of the dimensions I read on the internet. They are false. From back to front the LX3 is supposed to be only 27.1 mm. My measurements give a reading of 46 mm, and that is before taking the lens cap off and turning the camera on. The TZ7 has a published depth of 32.8 mm. My reading gives only 28 mm. In other words, the TZ7 is barely more than half as thick (due to the LX3’s protruding lens). This makes a huge difference in your pocket if you are carrying it around all day. The heights are the same and the TZ7’s width is a little more than 5 mm smaller. So, for portability, the TZ7 is much better.

The TZ7 takes much better video in most conditions. The LX3 can take great video too, but you can’t zoom in and out when recording video on the LX3. I’ll show you some sample videos with the TZ7 soon.

The TZ7 can cost anywhere from $100 to $200 less than the LX3 (assuming you can even find the LX3 in stock).

But the biggest reason why I purchased the TZ7 was not the lens cap annoyance, the better price, the better video, or the improved portability, it was the zoom. The TZ7 has 12x zoom. Cropping can only yield so much with the LX3, and I found myself cropping nearly everything I took with the LX3. Now I can zoom to 300mm and not be stuck at 60mm and a large crop.

I don’t plan on selling my LX3. I’ll use it for sunsets (and other low-light conditions), indoor pictures, and in some other situations where it may result in a substantially better picture. But given the portability and the zoom possibilities with the TZ7 I think it will be brought along more often. Have I completely sold you on the TZ7 over the LX3? I hope not, as my initial testing and photo comparisons indicate that the quality of pictures is generally better with the LX3. I’ll show you my first set of tests in my next entry.

Another reason I purchased the TZ7 is we only had one camera in Japan. My kids are going to Cambodia and Miyajima on field trips during the same week. Sending only one of them off with a camera didn’t sound so hot to me.

9 Responses to “Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 versus TZ7 (ZS3 in the U.S.)”

  1. 1
    Michaelpanda:

    >60 mm is simply not enough to photograph sports or to get some good people shots without the subject knowing you are photographing them.

    On the other hand Cartier-Bresson used a 50mm prime for the vast majority of his street photographs, and if ever there was a man who specialised in taking candid photos of people without them knowing they were being photographed, it would be him. 🙂

    But actually, I feel your pain. I love wide angle shots (especially the distortion ultra-wide angle rectilinear lenses introduce into the image) and usually walk around with a 10-22mm stuck on my camera. But every once in a while, I’ll find myself wishing for something with a lot, LOT more telephoto-ness to it, especially at crowded events in Tokyo where there’s no chance I’ll be able to get anywhere near enough to the action to get a good shot.

    If only they made a lens that went from 10-280mm and opened up to f/1.8 and weighed less than 500 grams. hahahaha Oh cruel ironies of physics. Why must you torture me so?

    Anyway, happy shooting with your new camera – it looks fantastic! I only have DSLR and often find myself wishing for a high quality compact like the TZ7 which I could always carry on my person. Oh man.. there goes my next paycheck…

  2. 2
    Astrid:

    Hi there!
    Was wondering how you now like the TZ7 after a month’s use? Still as thrilled?
    I am currently in the process of choosing between the LX3 or the TZ7 and would be really happy to hear more about their respective performance, especially the TZ7!
    Many thanks! And great pictures by the way… 🙂
    Astrid

  3. 3
    acase:

    After a month the LX3 wins on performance in some instances. For video, the TZ7 is clearly superior. For indoor pictures or other pictures with poor lighting conditions the LX3 is better. For outdoor pictures when the sun is out, there doesn’t seem to make much difference. The zoom is nice on the TZ7, but you need a tripod or very steady hand to make those images great. Neither camera does great if the subject is moving quickly (sporting events).

    I usually take the TZ7 with me simply because of size. If I am also bringing a backpack and know there will be some sunset or night shots then I bring along the LX3 too.

  4. 4
    Astrid:

    Many thanks for your reply. Still find it hard to make ‘the right choice’, if there is one that is 😉 As I am a fervent walker and take a lot of photographs while rambling the hills of bonny Scotland, I think I will go for the TZ7. Will definitely want to see, and feel, and hopefully use them both before buying though!

  5. 5
    john fier:

    Thanks for the review and pictures. The comment by the Scotland walker is what I do here in California. So I will opt for the ZS3 as it is designated in the USA. Later I will purchase a LX3.

  6. 6
    mark:

    hello, i’m trying to decide between the TZ7 (in the UK) and smaller brother ZX1 (25-200m). I have tried both in the camera shop, but only for a few minutes each. The smaller size of the ZX1 appeals, but i wonder if being a bit larger and having a brigther LCD makes a difference. Also, did you find the lack of any controls over aperture or shutter speed mattered at all? That would be the reason I might consider the Canon Ixus 870is (in the uk, in the us, i’m not sure what that is except it has a 28mm-108mm range). Many thanks.

  7. 7
    acase:

    Hi Mark,

    I can’t comment on or compare my cameras to the ZX1 or 870is since I haven’t used either, but you do have more controls with the TZ7 than you’d think. I mostly use the iA mode which automatically chooses the best shutter speed. If you don’t like your results, though, you can shift to another mode and manually change the exposure, set the shutter to a minimum (of say 1 second), etc. I really like the LCD on the TZ7.

  8. 8
    Mike:

    Hi, You said “The TZ7 doesn’t take as high of quality of pictures in low light or indoors.” How bad is it? Or is it still better compared to other compact cameras (not LX3). I am thinking of buying the TZ7 over the LX3 because of price difference and zoom feature. But I don’t want to regret buying it because I cannot take good pictures of it in low light and indoors. Can you advice?

  9. 9
    acase:

    It is still better than most other compacts. The LX3 is special in that regard as it has a really fantastic sensor. The flash on the LX3 is also superior to nearly every other compact.

    For even better pics in low light, if you can get it at the same price, get the TZ10 instead of the TZ7. http://traveljapanblog.com/wordpress/2010/05/panasonic-lumix-tz10/

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